That’s exactly the quandary I found myself stuck in several years ago.
After I had gone to college for two years, I returned to my hometown to work as a dental hygienist. But the following spring, I felt a tug to return to college and continue my education. I prayed and looked into various programs, but couldn’t get clear direction from God. Not to decide is to decide, and I did not return to college.
The following spring, I began to feel the same tug and the same cloud of confusion. Along with my disturbing uncertainty, I began to have flashbacks of violent childhood memories that involved my dad.
One night I visited one of my mentors and asked him to pray with me about what I was to do with my life. In the course of the conversation, I also mentioned the flashbacks. After listening to my dilemma, Mr. Thorp began our prayer time by turning to various scriptures.
First he read: Matthew 6:8-15.
For your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven hallowed be your name your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Then he turned to Matthew 18:19-22
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”
Each time Mr. Thorp turned to a passage about God answering prayer, there was a verse about forgiveness either before or after it.
“Sharon,” he said, “I sense God is telling you that you have unforgivenes toward your father. It that true?”
I wanted to say, “Wait a minute. I came here to pray about my future, not about my past.” But [tweetherder]God was showing me that unforgiveness in my past was impeding His work in my future.[/tweetherder]
At that time in my life, I had been a Christian for seven years and my dad had become a Christian just the year before. I did not even realize that I had not forgiven him for the pain he had caused in my childhood. Now, when he made a mistake, all those old feelings I had toward him resurfaced like hot lava lying beneath a dormant volcano waiting to explode.
God was showing me that in order to get unstuck and move forward, I needed to forgive my dad. Until I obeyed, my dreams were going to be interrupted by His hand.
That night, I forgave my father for everything he had ever done. Even the ashes were blown away and God replaced the bitterness with tender, inexplicable love for my dad. When I forgave my dad, God set me free.
Interestingly, the next day, the cloud of confusion lifted. I applied to college in late spring, even though the head of the department told me it was too late, and the program I desired to enroll was full.
They told me the only way I could get in was if someone were to drop out, which was very unlikely.
Confident that this was God’s plan for me, I resigned from my job and looked for an apartment near the college campus. Ten days before the start of the fall semester, the head of the department called and said, “You won’t believe this, this never happens, but someone dropped out of the program. We’d like you to come in the fall if you can make the arrangement.”
I could believe it, and the arrangements were already made. I enrolled in the fall and met my husband 6 weeks later. Nine months later, I became his wife.
I am not saying that when you forgive those who have hurt you, you’ll strike it rich, find the man of your dreams, or live happily ever after.
However, I do believe that [tweetherder]unforgiveness can be a dam stopping the flow of God’s power in our lives and the wellspring of His blessings.[/tweetherder]
The Greek word for forgiveness, aphiemi, means “to let go from one’s power, possession, to let go free, let escape.”
Bible teacher Beth Moore explains,
“In essence, the intent of biblical forgiveness is to cut someone loose. The word picture drawn by the Greek term unforgiveness is one in which the unforgiven is roped to the back of the unforgiving. How ironic. Unforgiveness is the means by which we securely bind ourselves to that which we hate most. Therefore, the Greek meaning of forgiveness might best be demonstrated as the practice of cutting loose the person roped to your back.”
Forgiveness has nothing to do with whether or not the person deserves to be forgiven. Most of the time he or she does not. It has everything to do with the person doing the forgiving and his or her desire to be free.
And let me tell you a little secret, the person or people that we hold a grudge against, the person or people we’re not forgiving…they don’t care.
That’s right, most of the time they don’t care and more often than not, they don’t even know that we are walking around with the albatross of unforgiveness hanging around our necks.
It is like we’re banging our own heads against the wall and saying, “Here, take that!” The only person hurt by unforgiveness is the person choosing not to forgive.
I must always remind myself of how much Jesus has forgiven me. My offenses have been many. How can I not forgive others? When we cut someone loose, take them off of our hook and place them on God’s hook, we are setting ourselves free. It is a gift we give ourselves!
Forgiveness is not easy. When Jesus told Peter to forgive his offenders seventy times seven, Peter immediately said, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).
But friends, the price for not forgiving those who have hurt us is very costly. It can cost us our dreams.
Is there someone you need to cut loose today? If so, leave a comment that says, “I’m cutting him/her loose. I’m letting it go!”
Be free, my friend.
Forgiving those who have hurt us is one of the themes of my book Your Scars Are Beautiful to God: Finding Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past. Click here to read a sample chapter.